Fear paralyses our willpower. Learn to overcome it!
What is fear? Why does it overwhelm us at every stage of life?
Fear is the opposite of love. The Bible says, “Love casts away fear”. We might think that courage is the opposite of fear, but often, we can act with courage and still be fearful. When you fear something, you consider it unwelcome, challenging and a threat to your wellbeing. When you love something, you have exactly the opposite feelings. If you love doing something, it doesn’t mean that it does not require effort, talent, challenge and determination from you.
Take climbing Mt Everest. It would be fearsome for most people, but for those who take it on, somehow the love of adventure, the love of pushing themselves to the limit, and the love of triumph enables them to conquer the fear that ordinary people would have. So, fear is an emotion or response to a life situation which takes away our confidence, paralyses our willpower, and makes us feel that going forward is impossible.
The biggest fear a student has is not doing well in exams. It causes great anguish.The Board exams in the country have just begun; what’s your advice to students on fighting fear of failure?
We have set up an educational system that terrifies children, and nobody can learn in an atmosphere of fear. We have instilled in children the idea that learning is meaningless and that what is important is the result. We need a revolution to set things right.
We need to expose children to examples of real men and women from history who have faced serious challenges and overcome them — stories of inventors and scientists like Thomas Edison, Helen Keller and Marie Curie.
History is filled with examples of those who persevered against all odds and succeeded — so that children understand, from a young age that life is challenging, but that challenge is satisfying and can be met with human potential of intelligence, creativity and perseverance. But the present education system does not allow for failure; failure is considered a disaster. Children need to learn from real-life examples that failure is just an interesting step along the way to success.
The career woman, forever struggling to strike a work-life balance, fears being left behind in the professional rat race. How can she overcome this fear?
Every one of us has competing commitments. The challenge is to look at every situation and ask: what is my higher Self asking me to do? The only way to peace is to have a clear conscience and the only way to have a clear conscience is to behave righteously irrespective of what society expects or what the financial implications are.
Where there is dharma, there is always victory; right action brings positive result. But if you compromise for short-term gains, you will always be insecure; you will always be uncomfortable with your conscience, and you will set off a dissonance. Sooner or later, this dissonance will come back and upset the equilibrium of your life.
A homemaker is often plagued by relationship fears: her husband may get attracted to someone else and leave her; her children may go their own way. How can she fight such insecurity?
We must recognize that it is not circumstances that give us our security, for circumstances are forever changing. Even the most righteous of husbands can be tempted; even the most secure of economic situations can change, the most promising of children can be deflected from their goal for any number of reasons. Our security must come from our own sense of confidence to respond energetically and creatively to whatever challenges that come our way.
The problem is that a homemaker often allows her life to be defined by conditions around her. She lives through her husband, her children and the home she has, and begins to lose a sense of her own creative and intellectual potential. It is important not to allow her life to be pulled down too far into the mundane. It is great to be a selfless righteous woman, happy to facilitate the lives of her husband and children, but she must do it with creativity and intellectual awareness, without compromising on her sense of self-worth.
The biggest fear the elderly face is of dependence in old age. Is there a way out of this fear?
Old age is inevitable and with it comes some amount of physical dependence. If you are going to fear what is inevitable, there is no end to it. The only way to assuage this fear is to put our trust in God. That would be my answer to every kind of fear, but it becomes much more poignant in old age.
But there’s another side to it. If we ourselves have been generous-hearted and have enjoyed being so, why should we imagine that if other people have to be generous to us, it would be a burden on them? If we are genuinely generous that sets in motion magnetism in our life. Then, even if we become dependent, it won’t be in a fearful relationship of taking, but in a happy relationship of sharing.
Written by Nayaswami Asha